Top News

THE FOOD DUDE: Some food for thought this Christmas

This dark fruit cake has never failed to turn a frown upside-down.
This dark fruit cake has never failed to turn a frown upside-down. - Contributed

It’s my fondest hope that you fine folks are gathered with family to celebrate this holiday season. It would appear you’ve taken some time to read an article and I wouldn’t feel too bad about that, after all there’s a significant chance that right now a loved one sitting in the same room has their nose in a phone, a tablet, a book, or some other distraction, but if you’ll indulge an eccentric wordslinger for a moment, I’d like to ask you to call the attention of the family members surrounding you and ask them to take a moment to hear what I have written here. By the time you’re done reading it, chances are you’ll feel a bit closer as a family this holiday season.

Whether you’re a believer, an atheist or anything in between, the one thing we all have in common is the holidays serve as a reminder that our loved ones are the single greatest source of joy in our lives, and that we all too often take their presence for granted, especially when we  otherwise have little chance to reflect on just how much we mean to each other. Even when forced to be apart during the holidays, the traditions we pass down and hold dear help unite us despite the distances in kilometres. After all, Great Nan Something-or-Other’s recipe for fruit cake revolts or delights us, whether we’re in Fort Mac or St. Anthony.

We often blame technology for making it hard to connect with loved ones at home, but when it comes to loved ones far away, a video call can make all the difference in the world to help us stay connected with the people we love, especially during the holidays.

Christmas has always been the time when my family and I put aside our squabbles, troubles and smartphones to come together and connect, but one important connection we’re missing out on this holiday season is with our newest member: my son, Max. Months ago, a nasty breakup had left me penniless, homeless and in need of a shoulder to cry on. Helping to support my son seemed nearly impossible as a vagabond on the streets of Toronto, so with more than a little help from my amazing family back home, this food writer was whisked away back to my hometown where I could properly get back on his feet.

I planned on returning to Ontario to be with my boy and to get my parental rights in order, but as ill luck, a poor job market and red tape would have it, that plan fell short of the mark.
We’re a family of survivors though, as my father can no doubt attest to, having kept the grim reaper at bay for more than a decade with cancer. This Christmas, we plan on coming together as always with as much cheer as we can muster. We’ll set our phones aside, laugh with each other as we exchange presents and gorge ourselves on a feast as only a family of cooks can prepare, including my nan’s traditional Christmas dessert that has never failed yet to turn a Christmas frown upside-down.

So, with all this in mind – if you’ve got your family near you this Christmas –  it might do well to reflect on how blessed you are to be together for this wonderful time of year and to cherish the gift of each other’s company over your brand new smartphone.

For those with loved ones far away, perhaps reaching out with that smartphone could instead help keep those connections strong. To all my readers old and new, my family, friends and enemies too: season’s greetings from me to you, and a very merry Christmas.

Nan’s Dark Christmas Cake

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup cherries, pitted
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg


In a medium pot, combine butter, fruit, water and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 5–10 minutes while stirring. Let cool completely. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and sift. Make a well in the centre and add the fruit mixture. Blend until mixture is free of lumps and pour into a greased cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes and set aside to cool completely before cutting.

Terry Bursey, otherwise known as the Food Dude, is a Newfoundland chef transplanted to Ontario who enjoys putting his mark on traditional recipes and inventing new tasty treats with unexpected ingredients. You can reach him at

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories